The rumours surrounding the trade of Kevin Pillar by the Toronto Blue Jays to the San Francisco Giants have finally been realized. Pillar is heading west in exchange for three players, reliever Derek Law, infielder Alen Hanson and minor league pitcher Juan De Paula.
For many Blue Jays fans, it is the end of an era with one of the last keys to the 2015 and 2016 AL Championship Series-reaching Blue Jays clubs gone. Pillar was a key cog in those playoff teams, flashing outstanding defense and making memories by stealing home runs and other extra-base hits. While he wasn’t a star on offense, he did have a .713 OPS with 12 home runs and 31 doubles in 2015 and a .649 OPS with 35 doubles and seven home runs in 2016. Since becoming a major league regular in 2016, Pillar has averaged a .701 OPS and an 88 OPS+, meaning that he performed at 12% below major league average offensively. Still, with plus defense, Pillar has managed to accumulate 10.1 fWAR (Fangraphs version of WAR) in those four seasons and provided fans with legendary defensive gems.
Coming back to the Blue Jays are a couple of players who may be able to help now in Law and Hansen. Law, 28, has a couple of seasons in the major leagues under his belt and had a strong rookie year in 2016 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 55 innings, striking out 50 and walking just nine but he struggled in his sophomore year, posting a 5.06 ERA and 1.58 WHIP with 35 strikeouts and 14 walks in 37 1/3 innings. In 2018, he spent most of the year in Triple-A and had a 7.43 ERA in the major leagues and a 4.20 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in the minors. Law is not a particlarly hard thrower, averaging 93.7 mph in the past two seasons in which he’s been in the major leagues.
Alen Hanson was designated for assignment and brings the jays some defensive versatility as he’s played second base, left field, right field, shortstop, third base and center field in parts of three seasons with the Giants. Having played with the Pirates in 2016 and parts of 2017, Hansen was selected off waivers by the White Sox in 2017 and signed as a free agent in January 2018 with the Giants. The 26-year-old Dominican played in 110 games last year, hitting .252/.274/.425 with 17 doubles, five triples and eight home runs in his best offensive season.
The Blue Jays’ real find in this trade is De Paula, who was signed as an international free agent by the Seattle Mariners in 2014 for $175,000 and went to the Yankees in a trade that sent Ben Gamel to the Mariners. De Paula was traded to the Giants in the deal that sent Andrew McCutcheon to the Yankees on August 31. The scouting report from 2080 scouting notes that De Paula, who was ranked by Baseball America as the #13 prospect in the Giants’ system after last year, has a projectable frame and throws a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 94-to-95 mph. He also has a high-70s curveball that “flashes average at best” and his “mid-80s changeup is crude and less refined than the fastball and curve,” with Steve Givarz writing “it lacks movement and plays like a BP fastball.”
Baseball America says that he’s a “skinny, 6-foot-3 righthander with plenty of room to add weight to his frame.” His fastball touches 98 mph with “above-average life. He has a feel for both a changeup and curveball, although both pitches are currently below-average offerings with the chance to become average or above-average pitches in the future.”
De Paula reached Class-A Augusta last year after spending most of the season in Short-Season A Staten Island and in 11 appearances and 52 1/3 innings, he had a 1.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, striking out 55 batters but walking 27.
It’s not a bad haul for Kevin Pillar and De Paula profiles as at least a potential back-end of the bullpen type pitcher with the possibility of developing into a mid-rotation starter.
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